The Sunday Salon – Today’s Reading

Today I’ve been reading The Flight of the Falcon by Daphne Du Maurier. My introduction to Daphne Du Maurier’s books was Rebecca, when I was a teenager. I then read as many of her books as I could find –Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, The Scapegoat, The King’s General and Mary Anne.

Then I had a big gap in reading her books, although I re-read Rebecca several times, until I came across Margaret Forster’s biography Daphne Du Maurier, and I realised how many she had written that I hadn’t read. I bought ten of her books from the Book People (a remarkable bargain at £9.99) last year or the year before and apart from looking at each one, they’ve been sat on the bookshelves unread until yesterday, when I picked out at random The Flight of the Falcon.

I’m about half way through it now and finding it the sort of book that makes me want to read it all in one go; that’s not possible today and anyway I want to make it last as long as possible. It starts in Rome, when Armino Fabbio, a tour guide, comes across an old woman who he thinks is Marta, his family’s servant from his hometown of Ruffano. When she is found, murdered, he returns to Ruffano to find out if it was Marta. It is twenty years since he left and he finds that the town has changed.  Du Maurier used Urbino as the model for Ruffano, and according to Forster’s biography the idea for this story came on a visit to Urbino with her son Kits and on another holiday with Tessa, her daughter when she came across an old woman asleep in the doorway of a church.

There’s a mystery about Armino’s family and the history of the town. Five hundred years earlier it had been terrorised by the Duke Claudio, known as the Falcon, and as Armino arrives the town and university are preparing an enactment of  the uprising of Ruffano against the Falcon for the annual Festival play. There are surprises in store for Armino  and he realises that his own family history is not what he thought it was.

I’ve resisted reading the introduction to The Flight of the Falcon, as I’ve often found that the plot is revealed in an introduction. Why anyone would think that is a good thing to do is beyond me. But I couldn’t help going back to Margaret Forster’s book because I remembered that she described what Daphne was doing and thinking when she was writing. She started to write The Flight of the Falcon in January 1964 at Menabilly when it was cold and raining and she struggled to capture the warmth and sun of Italy in her narrative. She no longer wanted to write straightforward stories, but wanted it to be an allegory, whose meaning was linked with the idea of psychological predestination. Interestingly she didn’t think it was as good as The Scapegoat and the British critics were less than enthusiastic when it was published in January 1965. Well, I enjoyed The Scapegoat years ago, but I’m not bothered about the critics – so far I’m finding it a good story. 

14 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon – Today’s Reading”

  1. I really should read something else by Daphne du Maurier. Would you believe the only book of hers that I’ve read is Rebecca?
    Oh and I miss The Book People. Such great deals.

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  2. So I gather from what you’re saying here is that you like Daphne du Maurier? 😉 I’ll be honest I’ve never read anything by her. I have a classics challenge. Perhaps I will add her to that challenge. Thanks for reminding me about her. (I loved the movie Rebecca based on the book, by the way.)

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  3. Look at all those Daphne du Maurier’s!! I’m jealous! I highly recommend Jamaica Inn. It is one of my all time favorites. I have Castle Dor on my TBR shelf and after seeing your collection want to read it very soon!
    Have fun!

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  4. Why in the world did I always think that Daphne de Maurier was a man? I was reading your post and thought “she?” I was shocked! I guess I always thought that Daphne was one of those names that was originally a man’s name. I’ve been educated today, thanks!

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  5. From what you say of the plot here, I think this a du Maurier I have yet to read. The trouble is I read most of them so long ago now that I can’t really remember. I shall have to read the first couple of chapters and see if it comes back to me. have you read ‘The House on the Strand’? That is one of the less well known ones, i think, and yet has always been my favourite.

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  6. Thanks for your comments.
    Tanabata I think you you’d like the others if you enjoyed Rebecca.
    Unfinished Person, I loved the film of Rebecca too – and that’s rare for me!
    Jaimie, I like Jamaica Inn too, almost as much as Rebecca. I haven’t read Castle Dor yet.
    Smallworldreads, glad to be of help.
    Ann, I haven’t read The House on the Strand. It’s the favourite of a one of my friends, but sadly it wasn’t one of the 10 books in the set. I can see that I’ll just have to buy it.

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  7. I first heard about Daphne Du Maurier when I was reading The Thirteenth Tale, believe it or not. I am not sure why she didn’t make my radar before then. I haven’t yet read any of her books, but I have Rebecca on my shelves waiting its turn. The Flight of the Falcon sounds like a good one as well.

    I do read introductions and usually I don’t have a problem with them, but I wish I hadn’t read the intro to Dracula before jumping into Bram Stoker’s book. I knew the roundabout story, but not everything. It would have been nice not to have had certain plot points spoiled before actually reading about them.

    I hope you have a great week.

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  8. Sounds a good project Margaret. I haven’t read any du Maurier for such a long time, but I am tempted. Has her writing dated, do you think?

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  9. I read Rebecca for the first time in high school and I’ve re-read it many times since. I love Daphne DuMaurier, but I have to confess the first book of hers I read was My Cousin Rachel, just because I’d fallen in love with Richard Burton in the film version! Somehow I haven’t managed to read Flight of the Falcon – it goes on my TBR list right now.

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  10. I’ve read Rebecca and watched a (1930s?) version of Jamaica Inn (watched it late one night; it’s a great late night movie), but I can’t say that I knew that du Maurier wrote so many books. Learned something new :o)

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  11. Reading that same bio spurred me on to want to read or reread all her work. I’ve not been making very good progress, but I do hope to reread Rebecca this summer. What a great deal to get all ten books for such a cheap price! I’ve been slowly trying to collect all her books, but I know I am missing several.

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